AlphaBaby Online Help
AlphaBaby is a great first app for babies and toddlers. It completey takes over the screen and shows letters, shapes, and numbers when keys are pressed or the mouse is clicked. AlphaBaby provides a safe, fun, and educational enivornment for your child to try out the computer, while protecting your own files and applications from little fingers. AlphaBaby grows with your child, and has a full set of options to allow you to customize what is displayed on the screen. This includes adding your own photos and sounds, making it a truly personal experience.
The most important thing to know about AlphaBaby is how to exit from it. The standard command-Q key combination is disabled to make it harder to accidentally exit from AlphaBaby. Instead, you must use the following key combination:
If command-Q is typed, a message appears on the screen displaying key combinations for quitting or changing preferences. An alternate way to quit out of AlphaBaby is to type the word "quit" somewhat quickly (2 seconds from the time the q is typed until the t is typed).
When a letter or number key is pressed, that letter or number is drawn on the screen and its name is spoken. If any other key is pressed, a shape is drawn and its name spoken. Click anywhere on the screen to have a shape drawn and spoken. If the mouse is held down and dragged, a line of stars will be drawn. By default, nothing is drawn if the mouse is just moved.
You can customize AlphaBaby by adding your own photos and sounds. AlphaBaby can load photos from an iPhoto album, or from your own folder of images. If you load your own photos, they are displayed along with shapes whenever a non-letter key is pressed. You can also specify that only photos are displayed. You can add your own sounds for letters, shapes, and numbers to AlphaBaby as well. Specify a folder of sound files that contain sounds that are named with the letter and shape names, and AlphaBaby can use those sounds. AlphaBaby also lets you use the built-in voices on the Mac to speak letters and shapes. It can be fun to hear a computer voice speaking to you while you type! The options below describe all the different ways you can use your own sounds and photos to customize and personalize AlphaBaby.
AlphaBaby will, by default, clear the screen after 30 items are drawn. You can change this value in the Preferences panel. However, if you would like to clear the screen at any time, the following key combination can be used:
AlphaBaby tries to trap most key combinations, so that it is difficult for kids to switch out of it and start typing into other programs. However, the volume keys still work, the keyboard eject button (if you have one) works, and the display brightness buttons work.
Warning to Laptop Users!
Toddlers repeatedly hitting the keyboard of a laptop can be bad for the health of your computer! It is Very Good Idea to use an external keyboard when running AlphaBaby on a laptop.
Also, the keys along the top row of a Mac laptop serve two different functions. They can either be the function keys F1 to F12 or they can have special functions assigned to them. AlphaBaby cannot prevent the keys from working when they are the special functions (volume, brightness, etc.), but it can prevent the keys from working when they are the function keys by default. In the Keyboard System Preferences, you can select the checkbox that turns the top row into standard function keys. This is recommended when running BabyProof. You can still access the special functions of these keys, but must press the Fn key at the same time.
If you want to customize AlphaBaby, the following key sequence brings up the Preferences panel:
Or, you can type the string "pref".
While the preferences screen is displayed, AlphaBaby is not in full-screen mode and other programs can be accessed.
The "Reset all prefrences" button sets all of the options back to their original, "factory" settings. The "Help..." button loads this online help in a web browser. Closing or clicking outside of the Preferences panel saves your changes and returns to running AlphaBaby in full screen mode.
The following options can be set:
- The Colors popup list gives you 7 different choices of color schemes
to be used when drawing letters and shapes. They are:
- All - completely random color
- Bright - random "bright" colors
- Pastel - random light, pastel colors
- Infant - red, black, and white
- Primary - red, blue, and yellow
- Rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple (default)
- Fixed Color... - Choose a fixed color from a color picker
- The color of the background can be changed. White is the default color. The new color takes effect the next time the screen is cleared.
- Clear the screen after a certain number of items have been drawn. If you never want the items cleared, select the "Never clear screen" radio button. The default value clears the screen after 30 items.
- The Font field displays the current font used to display characters. The default font is Arial-Black. The default size depends on the resolution of the screen. It is larger for higher resolution screens. The "Select" button allows you to use a standard font picker to change the font used. In general, a thick, large font is the most readable. The "Reset" button sets the font back to the default typeface and size.
- The Mode popup list gives you different ways to display letters on
the main AlphaBaby screen. They are:
- Default - the most general mode. Letters, random shapes, and images are put all over the screen, using either the keyboard or mouse.
- Single Letter - only a single item is shown at a time, centered in the screen. Shapes, letters, and images are all shown.
- Alphabet - Each letter of the alphabet, followed by the numbers 0-9 are displayed in the center of the screen. It does not matter what key is pressed, each time an item is displayed, it follows the alphabet in order.
- Typing - Each letter typed is displayed in order, starting with the upper left corner of the screen, and filling each line until the screen is filled. The clear screen after items value is not used, instead the screen is cleared when it has been filled with characters. Hitting return will advance to a new line. Letters and numbers are drawn. All other characters are turned into a space. No other shapes or images are displayed when in typing mode.
- Letters only - Only the letter keys will be shown on the screen
- Shapes only - Only shapes will be shown on the screen
- If Show punctuation is selected, then non-alphanumeric characters will be displayed when typed. If not selected, typing non-alphanumeric keys will cause shapes or images to be displayed.
- If Only capital letters is selected, then any letter keys typed will be converted to uppercase, even if the caps lock key is not on.
- The ⌃⌥⌘Q will quit checkbox enables the ⌃⌥⌘Q key combination. If disabled, that combination will not quit out of AlphaBaby. (Believe it or not, some babies are cabable of accidentally hitting that key combination!) Whether or not that item is selected, typing "quit" will always quit out of AlphaBaby.
AlphaBaby lets you display your own pictures when keys are pressed. AlphaBaby uses the current mode to decide when to display your photos. In the "Default" mode, photos are shown for mouse clicks and non-letter and non-number keys. You can control how often photos are displayed with the options described below.
You can use pictures either from an iPhoto album, or a folder full of pictures. AlphaBaby only lets you specify one source of pictures - either a folder or an iPhoto album. If you select an iPhoto Album, then any current folder of images will not be used.
- iPhoto albums are the easiest way to add your own pictures to AlphaBaby. All albums currently in iPhoto are displayed in the popup menu, and you can select which album you would like to display. iPhoto albums always take priority over specifying a folder of images, as described below.
- The Pick random album at startup has no immediate effect when clicked, but instead will pick a random album from your list of iPhoto albums when AlphaBaby is run the next time. This allows you to have a different set of images used each time you run AlphaBaby.
- The "Images Folder" field allows you specify a folder which contains images to be displayed when keys are typed or the mouse is clicked. The "Clear" button clears the image folder, and no images will be displayed. AlphaBaby will load any images files that end in: .png, .gif, .jpg, or .tiff. Nested subfolders are also searched for images. Make sure that the iPhoto album popup menu is set to "No Album" if you want the photos in the specified folder to be loaded.
- The Shapes/Images slider allows you to control how often shapes vs. images are displayed when keys are pressed or the mouse is clicked. The default value is halfway in between - there is an equal chance of an image being displayed or shape being drawn. If no images are loaded, then only shapes are drawn, no matter what the slider is set to. If the slider is completely to the left, then only shapes are drawn. If the slider is completely to the right, only images are drawn.
- The Only Images checkbox allows to you display only images for any key presses or mouse clicks (including alphanumeric keys). It only makes sense to check if you have custom images loaded.
- The Map images to keys checkbox can only be specified if "Only Images" is selected. This option creates a fixed mapping between images and keys. This means that each time a key is pressed, the same image is always displayed (instead of a random one). Images are assigned to keys in the following way. The list of images being loaded is first sorted alphabetically by image name (not including the path to the image). Then, the first 26 images are assigned to the keys A to Z. The next 10 images are assigned to 0 through 9. The rest of the images are then assigned to all other keys in no particular way. If there are only a few images loaded, the same ones are used over again for different keys. However, each key always has its own, fixed image. One way to use this feature is to have 26 images where each image starts with a different letter in the alphabet (A for apple, B for Ball, etc.) Then, when the images are loaded and the "Map Images to Keys" option is used, the letter A key would always show a picture of an apple, etc.
Sound TabBy default, AlphaBaby speaks the names of all letters and shapes that are displayed as the keyboard or mouse is used. AlphaBaby has two different built-in voices - a Kid voice and an Adult voice. The Kid voice is used by default. There are many ways to customize what is said when letters, shapes, or images are displayed. A computer voice can be used, or you can load a folder containing your own sounds to be spoken for letters, shapes, and colors.
- Enable sound effects. Sounds effects are played for displayed items if their name isn't being spoken. The default sounds used are the system sounds. If any of the speaking options are enabled, such as "Speak Leters" or "Speak Shapes", then the name of the item is spoken, instead of a sound effect. You can add additional sound effects to AlphaBaby by putting sound files in the Library/Sounds folder in your home folder. The sounds need to be in AIFF format and have the extension ".aiff".
- Use built-in sounds uses pre-recorded sounds for letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. There are two sets of pre-recorded sounds - Adult (mom) and Kid. These are the sounds also used by the iPhone AlphaBaby app. By default, the Kid voice is used.
- Speak letters and Speak shapes. If Speak letters or Speak shapes is selected, the name of the letter or shape displayed will be spoken by the either the built-in sounds, your own sounds (if supplied - see below), or by the computer with the current system voice. You can choose the current system voice by using the "Speech" panel in System Preferences. Under the "Text to Speech" section, you can specify a system voice. The "Alex" voice is one of the better, more natural, choices. By default, AlphaBaby speaks letters and shapes using the built-in Kid voice.
- Speak colors will add the name of the color to the name of the shape or letter if you are speaking those items. If you choose not to speak the name of shapes and letters, but leave "Speak Colors" checked, then just the color name will be spoken. Note: The color names will only be spoken if the "Colors" popup in the General tab is set to Infant, Primary, or Rainbow.
- Speak images. If Speak images is selected, the current system voice is used to speak the name of the image when it is displayed. This works best if you have set your image names to something meaningful. If you have your own set of sounds loaded, as described below, and there is a sound with the same name as the image, it will be played instead. This is a great way to add your own audio captions to photos.
- You can specify a folder which contains your own
versions of sounds for letters, shapes, colors, and pictures. Any sounds that
AlphaBaby finds here will be used in place of the built-in or computer
spoken sounds for letters, shapes, colors, and pictures. Sounds can be in
AIFF, CAF, or WAV format. To help AlphaBaby
match the correct sound to the correct item, the sound files must be named
- Sounds for letters and numbers should be named with the lowercase letter, such as "a.aiff" or "b.wav".
- Sounds for colors should be in lowercase, such as "red.aiff" or "pink.caf".
- Shape names should also be in lowercase, such as "triangle.caf".
- Sounds to match photos should have the exact same name as the names of the photo files themselves. For example, if you have a photo named "cat.jpg" loaded in your images folder, AlphaBaby will look for a sound named "cat.aiff", "caf.aif", "cat.wav", or "cat.caf". If a matching sound is found, it will be played when the photo is displayed.
This tab controls what is drawn when the mouse is moved around on the screen. By default, you must hold down the mouse button to draw lines and shapes. The default is for blue stars to be drawn whenever the mouse button is held down and dragged. Other options include:
- What is actually drawn when the mouse is moved can be stars, lines, squares, circles, or pictures of ducks or trucks.
- When lines, squares, or circles are selected, you can specify what color is used to draw them. It can be a solid color, specified by the color picker. It can be a random color, chosen from the current color set that is specified in the General tab. When Random is selected, each time the mouse is clicked, a new color is chosen. Or, it can be a rainbow color, which cycles through the rainbow colors as it draws.
- When lines, squares, or circles are being drawn, the thickness of the shapes can be controlled with the slider bar.
- By default, you must hold the mouse button down to draw. For easier drawing, you can allow drawing all the the when the mouse is moved, without holding down the mouse button.
About TabTo contact Little Potato Software for questions, suggestions, or help, use one of the ways listed in the About Tab:
If you like AlphaBaby for the Mac, you can also get AlphaBaby for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch from the iTunes App Store.